US Secretary of State John Kerry became the highest-ranking American official to visit Antarctica on Friday when he landed for a two-day trip. Kerry, who will hear from scientists about the impact of climate change on the frozen continent, left from New Zealand after being held up for about a day by bad weather. Kerry and his entourage left the Christchurch airport at 6am aboard a C-17 Globemaster military cargo plane, the AP reports. After a smooth trip of about five hours, the group landed on the Pegasus Ice Runway, the strip of ice that serves McMurdo Station. The large base is the hub for US operations.
Kerry made no public remarks on the initial leg of the trip. In Christchurch a day earlier, he congratulated President-elect Donald Trump for winning a "momentous election" and said he had reminded State Department staff of the "time-honored tradition of a very peaceful and constructive transfer of power." In Antarctica, Kerry's plans called for his entourage to transfer immediately at the airstrip to a smaller military transport plane for a three-hour flight to the research station the US government operates near the South Pole. Kerry plans to visit that station for about two hours before returning to McMurdo for the night. (He recently helped ink a deal to create a huge marine protected area in the region.)